NORWALK, CT – Election day is fast approaching and a number of key positions in town will be on the ballot.
To help readers make an informed decision on November 2, Patch reached out to local candidates to share their views on a few topics.
Independent Alexandrea Kemeny, 68, is a candidate for the Norwalk Board of Education.
Occupation: Retired teacher
Family: My daughter Hannah Daley, 26, works at Indeed.com in Stamford, Connecticut.
The biggest problem in town is ______, and I plan to do this about it:
The diversity of educational needs in the Norwalk education system.
Diversity is a good thing that makes us a vibrant and exciting community and educates our students about culture, but diversity can create issues of inequity. Equity in education means that students receive what they need to be successful.
Children should want to wake up in the morning and be excited about going to school. It should be a happy and safe place. We need to start teaching students at their level again and THEN take them forward as they understand each concept. A fair classroom is a classroom where children are given what they need to be successful. Often times, this means more time to absorb the content and differentiate the material. When students are pushed without understanding the concepts, it creates anxiety and frustration in the classroom, which leads to the social and emotional issues that many of our children have. * Some solutions in the follow-up responses.
Critical differences between me and my opponents:
Experience: I taught Norwalk Public Schools for 31 years, so I know the system inside out. I have endured the ever-changing philosophies implemented over the decades. I have experienced the continuous changes and the institution of unproven education systems that were the “last thing” to see them abandoned when the new improved “last curriculum” kicks in with a new regime.
Let’s get right to the point: I’m familiar with all the latest buzzwords. Adopting new language and euphemisms does not replace requiring schools to produce students who can read, write in English and master math. “Ready for the future” is the current buzzword – but what is its definition? I define this as preparing students for success in the next phase of their lives; whether professional, technical, military or collegiate.
Concrete ideas: preparation for learning for all incoming students in English as a second language (details in question n ° 5). Learning with entrepreneurs and local businesses. (details in question # 4) Actively recruit minority teachers – not just waiting for them to apply.
Time for work: because I am retired, I am willing and able to devote my time to researching and finding solutions to solve our problems.
1. 31 years of teaching in Norwalk Public Schools.
2. Founder and vice-president and teacher for 34 years of the not-for-profit Crystal Theater in Norwalk – a performing arts school
3. I worked with DCF, welcoming several children over a period of 10 years
4. I sat for 13 years on the board of directors of “Open Door Shelter
5.11 years as a professional performer / singer touring the country and around the world and interacting with all levels of people including 3 USO tours abroad in the Far East and the Mediterranean
6. Studied in Budapest, Hungary for 2 years as an opera student not speaking a word of Hungarian. I can understand the plight of our students who do not speak English.
I think each student should be treated individually. Due to the diversity of our students, each has different strengths and interests.
Not all students are destined for college. There should be opportunities available for ALL students. But they have no alternative, except the army which is a good option for some.
There should be professional opportunities to encourage students to become productive members of the community. As a board of directors, we should:
1. Develop curricula that support professions like math for carpenters / medical care courses for nurse aides / preschool placements for daycare centers with developmental growth courses / placements for people elderly
2. Develop partnerships with local businesses that allow students to follow them over a typical day, giving them the opportunity to experience various trades such as plumbing, electricity, oyster fishing, welding and the list can go on and on.
3. Hire career counselors / professionals (different from social workers) who have a selected group of at-risk children they team up with in grade 9, following them through to graduation. These guidance counselors would facilitate the on-the-job experience, advising and providing professional opportunities to these students.
What would you want voters to know about you?
An average day in a primary school class consists of almost 7 hours. Plenty of time for our students to receive a quality education. But we don’t succeed, no matter what the pink image others tell you. Just look at our test results!
One of the reasons for this is the composition of the class. Ex. A 5th class:
24 students. “4” read at grade 1, “6” read at grade 3, “2” at grade 4, “8” at grade level, “2” above grade level, and “2” non-speaking English students. How can you make a fair classroom with such a diversity of needs? Students are taken out of the classroom for Social Intervention Groups, For Ropes, For Band, For Resources and MLL (Multiple Language Learners). When does the teacher find time to teach a whole class a lesson? And when she finds the time, how does she approach the different levels of the students simultaneously?
Policy must find a more efficient system for class composition so that the needs of all students can be met individually. This, in turn, can reduce the academic gap.
Another issue that is close to my heart is the politics (or lack thereof) of our English learners. I lived in a foreign country for 2 years where no one spoke English at that time. I was almost 20 years old. I know firsthand what it feels like when you don’t understand what people want from you or what they are saying. Many of our non-English speaking children have never even gone to school in their home country and cannot even read in their mother tongue. We throw them in a classroom hoping they acclimatize. This does not meet their needs and takes away from them effective time in class to deal with their adjustment period. There must be an orientation program in place in a centrally located building (perhaps a module at the newly renovated Jefferson School) where their needs can be met. They would learn some basic English, get medical attention and help with any social issues they might have. Then, after this orientation period, they would be placed in their home school.
Another problem that needs to be addressed is a financial problem. The state uses a formula called ECS (Educational Cost Sharing) to determine how much money each city recovers from its taxes to fund its school systems. Norwalk receives $ 938 per student while Hartford receives $ 10,000 per student in its city! 60% of our students are free and meals reduced. Something is not fair here and we should be getting our fair share. I don’t have a solution for this, but our property taxes will never cover the funds we need to meet the needs of every Norwalk student. We need to call on our elected officials to represent our needs in Hartford.
Latest issue Preschool for low-income families “free and reduced meals”. Kindergarten students arrive on the first day of class with very different abilities. Some do not distinguish red from green while others know the entire alphabet. These children start behind the 8 ball before they even start, sometimes without ever catching up.